Why Booya?

At Boreas, we gather weekly for booyas. These combination community-building, networking, and conversation events are a core part of what we do. But where do they come from? What is thinking behind them?

a pot of stew called booyaThe name comes from an upper-Midwest tradition of community stews. “Booya” refers to both the stew and the event. As the days shorten into fall, in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan you’ll start seeing signs advertising booyas. Sometimes the smell of savory stew wafts across a fire department or church parking lot. At Boreas, we’ve started our own annual booya tradition, where we cook and serve booya right on campus. We keep the idea going through the year with our weekly booyas, where we do the community, but not the stew, part of booyas.

Boreas was intentional about choosing booyas as the organizing idea for our community- and network-building events. Here’s why.


Boreas exists to develop change agents and world changers. We know creating change is hard, and people need support as they work at it. At Boreas, we build a community of people to support and celebrate this mission ­– both as an ideal and as a way to support individuals as they take risks and try things out along their development paths.

Community also underlies the tradition of the booya. As the fall harvest starts coming in, people gather together the different parts of the booya stew. They gather in groups as well. Last year, in preparation for the Big Boreas Booya, I visited a booya in New Brighton, MN that’s serves hundreds of people more than 500 gallons of booya. Community is woven throughout the process, from preparing the food, to serving it, enjoying it, and cleaning up. We try to capture some of this community feeling with Boreas Booyas. Check out a wrap-up of last year’s Big Boreas Booya.

Everyone has something to offer

While the community is an important part of booyas, so is the individual. Whether it’s individual ingredients, or the individuals at the booya, each part is important to making the richer, more complex whole.

people attended the big Boreas BooyaAt Boreas, we believe everyone has something to offer in making progress on environmental solutions. Sure, we work in the context of a university, where we develop and celebrate expertise and knowledge. At Boreas, we also recognize the many and varied kinds of expertise, knowledge, and contributions people bring. Different kinds of expertise – whether it’s renewable energy technologies, water modeling, community social networks, or booya-cooking – are most useful when people can appreciate, value, and figure out how to work with each other’s expertise.

We see booya as a leveler and a connector amongst different kinds of expertise and knowledge, and we try to make our booya conversations reflect this value.

Connection to place, open to all

Boreas is a program at the University of Minnesota, and we value our connection to our state. The name “Boreas,” which comes from the Greek god of the north wind, is connected to our northern locale.

Boreas ended up with community-building events called booyas through a winding conversation. The student advisory team was trying to come up with a name better than “networking event” to encompass a gathering of community, ideally with some connection to food. One team member, who comes from New Zealand, said in her country they’d call such things a “boil-up,” a Minnesotan said around here, they’d call it a “booya.” The decision was made. Boreas would have booyas.

At Boreas, we are interested in developing people to change the world. We also recognize that a connection to place is key for people to love the environment. We want to protect and enhance places in the world we love. The history of booyas is embedded in our place of Minnesota, connected to the cycle of harvest and our state’s history.

What’s even better about booyas is no one quite knows where the tradition started or comes from, so we can think of booyas as welcoming to everyone and open to being developed through the contributions of people in Minnesota now, whether they were born here or arrived just this year. We want Boreas Booyas to be rooted in recognition of history’s value and growing through the contributions of many perspectives.

As Boreas begins another year, we invite graduate and professional students (and post-docs) to check out Boreas Booyas and make them a part of their University of Minnesota experience.

Join us at the Big Boreas Booya on October 1. Check out our weekly booya schedulel.

Director of Boreas


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